Mums – the word

Tis the season to talk about chrysanthemums.  There are garden mums, hardy mums, greenhouse mums – but to me they are all just mums.  Some are supposed to be enjoyed & tossed (perish the thought) and some to be planted in gardens.  I plant them all.  After all, waste not, want not.


Traditionally, one is supposed to pinch back the mums during growing season, in order to promote full, bushy growth and avoid legginess.  This should be done every 2 weeks until July 15 (or on the Front Range, until about June 30).  When living in the East, for some reason my plants still became leggy even if I pinched them back, and the abundance of rain there also weighed down the flower stalks. 

Here on the Front Range, I rarely pinch back my mums.  I will shear them once if they are looking particularly scraggly, but always before June 30.  Most mums I leave alone though.  Their natural growth habit fluctuates, and I’m not sure why.  It could be the specific nature of each type of mum, or the growing conditions (light, moisture, heat, etc.)  I have a number of mums in my yard, and although I’ve generally left them to their own devices, they’ve each grown in their own way.  Some have remained in a low, rounded bush, covered in blooms.  (This is my current favorite mum.  It is a rainbow of colors (sort of reminds me of Rainbow Sherbet) from pink, to lavender, to yellow, to tangerine, with its petals gradually changing color as the bud opens.  The low, bushy habit keeps it neat in the border of a perennial garden.)




Some have grown in an open clump as they spread roots underground and send up new shoots.  


And some have grown in a very open fashion, almost as if in individual shoots, reaching up to 30” tall!  (In this last photo, the flower color has subtly changed over a few years, too.  It started out as a creamy yellowish flower with some red-bronze highlights, and gradually has become a true yellow flower.  Every year it is a bit different.


A lot of people don’t like mums, but I enjoy them.  They are nice for cut flowers in a small vase, they brighten up the garden when many other plants are beginning to wane, they come in many colors, growth habits, and sizes, and branches which break off can be easily rooted to make new plants.  And aside from trouble from aphids (which can usually be hosed off), they are pretty much carefree. 

I have nine pots of mums sitting out front waiting to be planted.  I almost started to plant them today, but then remembered I have an order of Spring bulbs which should arrive any day, and I want to put some of the bulbs in the same vicinity as the mums, so I thought I’d do all the planting at once.  A storm was rolling in, too, so I guess it was a good time to put away the trowel for the day.

There’s always tomorrow……


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